The Struggles of Explaining the Definition and Location of Inner Mongolia: a study of dialogues

Sometimes information can be hard to grasp. When we decide to uproot and move halfway around the world, our well-meaning friends can often struggle to understand exactly to which part of the world we will be moving. As the time approaches for us to leave, we often find ourselves engaged in conversations in which our confused and frustrated friends make similar mistakes in comprehension. Even when we return to our home countries, we are met with the same sorts of struggles in explaining where we have been, and getting people to remember that information. However, every now and then, an extra attentive friend “gets it right.”

The following dialogues are fictional, but are based on very real conversations I have had with people before I moved to Inner Mongolia, and in the years since I have returned to the States. They are meant to be taken lightheartedly. Enjoy! [as a side note, these conversations are about a region in China called Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, where Hohhot is located. Many times this is shortened to “Inner Mongolia Province,” or just simply “Inner Mongolia.”]

For reference, please enjoy the following map courtesy of Google.

china map

A map of China featuring Inner Mongolia. Image courtesy of Google.

Scenario 1: some people just don’t get it. 

Friend: “So, what are you future plans?”

Me: “Well, this summer, I’ll be moving to Inner Mongolia to teach English.”

Friend: “Cool, isn’t that where Genghis Khan is from? I really like their barbecue.”

Me: “Actually, Inner Mongolia is a province in northern China.”

Friend: “Then why is it called Mongolia if it’s in China? I thought Mongolia is a country. What is a province; I’m so confused?”

Me: “It’s like a state, and yes, Mongolia is a country, Inner Mongolia used to be part of it, but now, it’s part of China.”

Friend: “I wonder why they don’t change the name to Inner China then? Does China have as many states as America?”

Me: “China doesn’t have states—it has provinces.”

Friend: “But you just said Mongolia is a state in China.”

Me: “No, I said Inner Mongolia is a province—it’s like a state. Each province is made up of multiple cities and towns, just like our states are here in the United States.”

Friend:  “Oh ok. Well, do they have good barbecue there in Mongolia, China where you will be teaching?”


Scenario 2: Some people are quicker on the uptake, but still struggle with totally grasping it. 

Friend: “Hey, I heard you will be moving to China this year. Which part will you be in?”

Me: “I’ll be in the city of Hohhot, in Inner Mongolia province.”

Friend: “Oh, cool. Why is it called Inner Mongolia; it is in China, right?”

Me: “Yes, it is a province in northern China, bordering the country of Mongolia.”

Friend: “I see. That’s weird, if it’s outside of the country of Mongolia, you would think they would call it ‘Outer Mongolia.’”

Me: “Yeah, you might think that, but it’s the exact opposite.”

Friend: “Well, how long will you be teaching in Mongolia?”

Me: “Actually, I’ll be in Inner Mongolia. I’ll be there for one year.”

Friend: “Oh yeah, sorry, Inner Mongolia. How far is that from Japan? Maybe one weekend you can go check it out? I love sushi.”


Scenario 3: On rare occasions, someone, thankfully, finally gets it.

Friend: “Hey, so I heard you are moving to China this summer.”

Me: “Yeah! I’ll be in the city of Hohhot, in Inner Mongolia province.”

Friend: “Oh, cool. Is a province like a state?”

Me: “Yes, China has several provinces, and Inner Mongolia is in the very north.”

Friend: “I see. That would put it right beneath Mongolia. At one time, they must have been one area.”

Me: “Exactly!”

Friend: “Well, how long will you be teaching in Inner Mongolia?”

Me: [smiling, because for once, someone remembered to say Inner] “I’ll be there for one year.”

Friend: “That’s great. Hey, since it’s in the north, it must not be far from Beijing—you’ll have to go visit if you have time.”

Me: [smiling, because someone actually knows their geography] “You’re right, it’s about a 13 hour train ride. That sounds like a great idea.”

Friend: “Hey Friend 2, did you know Matthew is moving to Inner Mongolia, China?”

Me: [smiling]

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  1. weibaili says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with us, Matthew! Keep them coming!
    If anyone else is interested in a guest post appearance, you can contact us at

  2. weibaili says:

    In regards to the specific content of this post, we like to say: Inner Mongolia is to China as New Mexico is to the United States.

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